Joshua Tree National Park

Where Two Deserts Meet 

 

Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$

Time to Hit the Highlights: 2 Days

Must See: Ryan Mountain, Cholla Cactus Garden

Time of the Year to Visit: All year, peak season October – May (we visited in late December)

Audience: Everyone (short trails, mostly drivable to the highlights), especially rock climbers

 

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About Joshua Tree

  • Joshua Tree is where two deserts meet, the Mojave and the Colorado. This creates a unique ecosystem of round boulder mountains and shrubby desert that is home to the famous Joshua Tree. This park offers hiking, rock climbing, camping and beautiful views. Joshua Tree is a small park, but a very accessible one that has activities for park goers of all active levels.
  • For more information on Joshua Tree National Park visit https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm

 

Getting There

  • Flew into Las Vegas, drove from Las Vegas to Death Valley NP (~5 Hours) to Palm Springs and Joshua National Park (~4 Hours)
  • Car Required; recommend a high clearance vehicle due to off-roading opportunities

 

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Staying There

  • Palm Springs (~45 Min) is just a short drive from the park for those looking for a park and town experience. There are many hotels throughout Palm Springs that allow you to take in the retro vibe of the town when you’re not climbing the jumbo rocks of Joshua Tree.
  • Camping is super popular at Joshua Tree and it can be difficult to find a spot in the peak winter months. For a better chance of finding a spot, try visiting during the summer where it may be hotter, but less crowded.
    • There are several campsites throughout the park that can be reserved before and at arrival. Since it can be hard to find a site in the peak season (October – May) try reserving your site before arrival at Black Rock or Indian Cove. There are 6 other campsites that you can reserve once you arrive to the park for both RVs and rustic camping.
    • Most national park sites are $15-$20 a night.
    • If you can’t find a site in the park there are a variety of private campgrounds to the north and south of the park where you may be able to find a place to rest your head.

 

Being There

Ryan Mountain

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  • A 6 mile hike up and back starting at Sheep Pass that shows off the wonderful landscape of the national park.
  • This is a popular hike that will make you feel like you got your workout in for the day.
  • It can be chilly towards the top so be sure to bring layers so you can stay warm as you climb.

 

Cholla Cactus Garden

  • A very short and easy hike that loops through a large patch of Cholla Cactus.
  • It is cool to see a large number of these cacti together and it is unusual in the park landscape.

 

Skull Rock

  • This appropriately name rock and trail is easy to find. It’s the rock that literally looks like a skull.
  • Park near the Jumbo Rocks campground and enjoy a nice 1.7 mile hike through the boulder piles.

 

Hidden Valley

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  • An easy 1 mile loop that brings you up close to the soft, round boulders of Joshua Tree.
  • This is an educational hike with ecosystem and history placards along the designated trail.

 

Key’s View

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  • This is an accessible viewpoint that you can drive to to see views of Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, the San Andreas Fault and the Salton Sea.

 

Rock Climbing

  • Whether you are climbing or just like watching the climbers, you won’t be disappointed by the opportunities within the park.
  • Driving through the main drag of the park you’ll encounter countless places where you can stop to climb or simply enjoy the daredevils at work.

 

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Eating There

  • The iconic town of Palm Springs has countless amazing restaurants and a fun bar scene. Pretend you’re a classic movie star in from Los Angeles for the weekend and treat yourself at the cocktail bars and iconic restaurants along Palm Canyon Drive.
  • If you’re camping then it is always best to pack in and out your own food. Campfires are allowed at the Joshua Tree campsites so you can make your own meals.

 

More Information

  • Payment is required at the National Park Ranger Station
  • Despite being a desert, it was colder than we expected
  • Stock up on food/provisions before entering the park
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